7 Nonprofit Lessons From Prince 2 U

Dearly Beloved,

Call us indulgent, but we’re still bleeding purple. In all the re-listening and rhapsodizing about Prince’s reign, we found some messages that resonate with our nonprofit work.

  1. SUCCESS COMES FROM SWEAT- His image was always cool, his band always tight, but he was a notorious planner, putting untold hours into structured logistics, and scheduling his time so that when the lights when up, he and his collaborators were ready to rock. That fabulously profitable fundraiser or heart-melting client speaker event gets forged in the preparation, not primetime.
  2. INTENTIONALLY CREATE COMMUNITY- After-show parties and intimate gigs, fan invitations to Paisley Park - Prince knew people crave insider access and chances to connect personally. He built a broad and deeply loyal fanbase on top of it. Would your donors and key volunteers benefit from more back-stage access to where your cause comes alive?
  3. INTROVERTS CAN BE ROCK STARS TOO- U better live now, before the grim reaper come knocking on your door.” Prince was actually a shy guy. But his audacity, passion, courage, and conviction made him fearless. There’s room in the spotlight for confident leaders, even those who aren’t drawn to being the Life O’ the Party.
  4. MAKE YOUR MESSAGE MEMORABLE- Prince was anything but boring. Even when bold choices created Controversy, he left an impression. Your cause deserves airtime and attention. Is a subdued voice gonna get it? Get your cause noticed by saying something memorable that sticks in people’s minds. Maybe more swag, better visuals, or collaborations with others making noise? The goal is distinct expression, not perfection.
  5. LABELS ARE FOR DEFYING- “Am I black or am I white, am I straight or gay? I wish there were no black and white, I wish there were no rules." Embrace ambiguity and reject the tidy notion that people will feel comfortable in the boxes others put them in. For us, maybe it’s “at-risk youth”, “south county”, or “underserved client”. Recognize the richness and the truth that may be left out by familiar categorization. Who knew a 5’2” dude from Minneapolis would be the crowned Prince of funkysexycool?
  6. IGNORE THE CRITICS- Just like Nina Simon and Monica Martinez have shared with us, Prince knew that doing important things is naturally going to piss some people off. Maybe it’s the media, a co-worker, or a troll in the comments section, but when that critique of what you’re doing comes, accept it as an inevitable function of principled work. “Do your dance, why should U wait any longer? Take a chance. It could only make U stronger. It's your time.”
  7. BE YOU, BE BOLD, BE ORIGINAL- Prince was all about doing what your soul commands, following where your heart leads, and being your unrestrained self.  Let it be a guide for our own career but let’s remember nonprofits’ role in making it safe for people to be who they feel they need to be. “Now where I come from we don't let society tell us how it's supposed to be. Our clothes, our hair, we don't care, it's all about being there.”

Who knew The Artist had so much sage advice for the social profit crowd?

We love you baby and that’s no lie,

YNPN Central Coast